The agriculture minister has described the Government’s decision to tighten refugee visa requirements as “fair and appropriate”.
he Government has put restrictions on its immigration policy as the country deals with a shortage of accommodation.
Visa-free travel will remain available for Ukrainian nationals but refugees travelling from safe European countries will be required to hold visas from Tuesday.
It comes as the Government said Ukrainian refugees will only be expected to stay in tents at Gormanston military camp in Co Meath for a week. Some 150 people will be moved there today.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said there has been a three-fold increase in applications for international protection from people who already had refugee status in an EU member state.
“I think the key focus on the Government here is to provide shelter and refuge to refugees who are in trouble from across the world, but particularly, of course, those from Ukraine who are fleeing war and fleeing the death and real danger in that country,” Mr McConalogue told RTE Morning Ireland.
“We provided a home to and refuge to 40,000 (people) already from Ukraine.
“What we have seen and what the assessment of the Government was between 2019 and this year, there’s been a three-fold increase in relation to applications from those from Council of Europe countries.”
He said that around 7% of 6,494 applications for international protection during that period came from EU member states.
I think the step we have taken yesterday was a fair and appropriate one. Just to be clear, it relates only to those who already have refugee status in another EU country.Charlie McConalogue
“I think the step the Government is taking is a fair and appropriate one, because our key focus has to be in relation to providing opportunity for those who haven’t already got refugee status in another European country, to allow them and provide the opportunity to get refugee status here, and particularly to provide shelter and a home to those in Ukraine who are fleeing war,” he added.
“I think the step we have taken yesterday was a fair and appropriate one. Just to be clear, it relates only to those who already have refugee status in another EU country.
“So they already had refugee status, because of course we have to prioritise those that don’t have refugee status anywhere and we have to prioritise those that are coming from Ukraine, and what it does is it means that anybody who already has refugee status in another country will now have to apply for a visa.
“I think that’s an appropriate and a fair approach.”
On Monday evening, it was announced that the Government has agreed to temporarily suspend the operation of the Council of Europe Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees (Council of Europe) for 12 months.
It described the temporary measure as a means to protect the integrity of the immigration and international protection systems.
It emerged last week that the Citywest welcome centre for Ukrainians had reached capacity, coupled with a shortage of accommodation for other international protection seekers.
This led to Ukrainians sleeping on the floor in an old terminal at Dublin Airport for up to two days.